A former high school classmate and cherished old friend when reconnecting with Roger through Facebook quoted the old saying: "When God closes a door, he opens a window." The years have seen a number of life changes for us that make that adage ring true. After being blessed with good fortune, a wonderful son and great experiences, we decided to look out that window and prepare for more of what this wonderful life has to offer. We hope through our blog to share our journey from this point forward with family, with friends and with many others. Hopefully we'll make some new friends along the way. We hope you find our tales of some interest, even amusement and perhaps an inspiration for you to treat each and every day as an opportunity and an adventure to share with those who are an important part of your life.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fielding questions from people back home:

One of the reasons we chose to write this blog is to provide a journal for family and friends back in the USA so they would know what we were up to in our new adventure.  We have been amazed at how many questions the blog itself as well as our postings on Facebook generated from friends and even for folks we've never met.  Here's a recent example of how many of the questions get generated:

There is a Facebook for alumni of Roger's high school.  There's a lot of postings about what's going on in everybody's life and some days it's almost a chat room of hi's, how are ya's and what's happening over there?   Recently we posted the following photo and status update:

Evenings like this one on our back patio with a glass of wine
....yeah, this is why we retired to Ecuador!!!

Among the comments that were posted in response was the following from a former neighbor and friend:   "how many ex-patriates live in your area? Is it a pretty large group? How does the cost of living compare to the states? Just curious........thanks!

Here is how I responded....we thought it might be of interest to our readers here, as well:

    The Cuenca metro area is about 600,000 population and there are about 6,000 full time expatriates from the US and Canada and maybe 2,000-3,000 more from Europe. We have a lot of seasonal tourists and it seems like there are more ex pats coming here every day. Cost of living is part of the attraction but what is touted in the retirement magazines can be somewhat misleading. Some of my favorite affordable wines and even a box of Tide cost twice here what they would in the U.S. Most of my clothes have to purchased back in the US or custom made here due to size differences. However, we live very, very nicely on my SS and two pensions. When Suzanne's SS kicks in, we will live almost as well in retirement as we did when we were both working full time and will be able to travel two to three months out of the year. Our house is  3+ bedrooms at 2300 sq ft in size and cost us about $150,000. Real estate is advancing rapidly (more so condos) at about 15-20% a year and some blame the "gringo invasion". It, however, is mainly being driven by Ecuadorians returning from the US and Spain (as well as other countries). They've been offered incentives to come back and start businesses and are also attracted by the new scholarship programs here for their kids. Cuenca has been said to have the fastest growing middle class of nearly any city in South America. Most condominium buildings here sell out before they are finished! Affordable health care is a really big blood pressure medication which had a $35 co-pay in the US costs me just $7 total here and my doctor's visit just increased to a whopping $25 ($30 for a house call...yes they do that here!) and that's the whole bill not the co-pay! I pay $5 for a great haircut (that includes a horrifying 20% tip) and lunch downtown with a glass of wine for both of us comes in under $15. My utilities (telephone, water, electricity, gas, internet, garbage collection, fire protection fee) in total never run over $100 per month and my annual property taxes are about $150. Add to the list the fact that this is the most biologically diverse country on earth and probably one of the most beautiful, and you begin to understand why we are here!

  As long as they continue, we'll keep responding to the questions.   Know that we continue to love and enjoy our journey "juntos en camino de la vida".

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cock-a-doodle, ho-ho-ho...the story of the Christmas Chicken and Happy Holidays wishes from Ecuador!

As we continue our journey, "juntos en el camino de la vida", we are headed toward our first Thanksgiving and Christmas in our new Ecuadorian home.  With all the traveling we've done and with being in temporary apartments in both 2010 and 2011, this will be our first full, "at home", Christmas in two years.

our holiday polar bear

Someone asked recently if Suzanne enjoys decorating for the holidays. The answer is obvious to anyone who has ever visited our home during the holiday season.  This year her Arizona friend Lenore will surpass her with a total of 14 Christmas trees.  That's probably only because we had to sell a bunch of our Christmas things in order to fit in the 20 foot container we brought to Ecuador.   We also won't have a decorated front yard and a front driveway lined with lighted trees.  Heck, we even decorated our 9 foot Saguaro cactus when we lived in Arizona!

Suzanne's Santa collection
is always out for the holidays!
 Anyway, we still brought a lot of our favorite decorations with us.   Traditionally, the Yazell's decorating efforts for the Christmas holiday begins in earnest on the weekend following Thanksgiving (Black Friday, of course, being reserved for shopping!)  However, here in Ecuador, we have begun earlier than usual.   We are having an open house in our new home and it is taking place the Wednesday after Thanksgiving so Suzanne wanted all the holiday stuff in place.  We also had to do some unpacking and checking as most of the holiday stuff went straight into the storage closet from the container.   Some of that stuff we hadn't seen in almost two years!

OK, so it's been busy in the Yazell household the past several's a pictorial review of just some of what we've been putting together:

Suzanne collected these Anri nativity figures as a child.  It has been
an important part of our holiday decorations each and every Christmas season.

Nearly every nook has something
for the holiday on display!

This is Holly,
 one of  our special Christmas bears

Rusty is one of  our regular bears.
He gets to wear a special headband
just for the holiday occasion!
Christmas tress, of course, are important, but we don't have as many this year.  Here's a look at what we're doing in Ecuador:

Our tabletop bear tree in the upstairs
family sala.

Our back patio is the home
of our Latin America tree.

Our Snoopy tree is in the den.

Roger, of course, had to have a special wine
tree.  The cork ornaments are actual corks
taken from some of his favorite wines

Roger's wine bar also features a "Wine Santa" bringing
gifts of good wine to all good boys and girls!
(provided, of course, that they are of legal drinking age!)

Our musical Snoopy, decked out in his holiday
shirt, stands guard next to the "Peanuts tree".

Back in Arizona, this tree was our
"secondary tree"  The 10 ft tree we had in Arizona
 would not fit here, so this has become
our main living room just did fit!

Suzanne loves angels and you'll always find some in our house
all year around.  However,  there has to be a special one
just for the holidays and here she is!

There's no longer a tree for our antique ornaments so Suzanne set
some display containers for them at a few points in the house.

We even have a "Christmas Cheerleader"
sure to help get our guests in the holiday spirit.
O.K. It's finally time for the special story of the Yazell family "Christmas Chicken"!   During one of our many trips to Mexico, Suzanne fell in love with a brightly colored, red and green, paper mache rooster with an equally colorful sombrero.  She purchased it, brought it home to Arizona and declared that it would a perfect addition next to our patio tree which featured ornaments from the desert southwest, Mexico and other Latin American countries. Roger immediately dubbed this work of art, "our Christmas Chicken".

Anyway, when the Christmas Chicken comes out, you know the holiday season has officially begun at the Yazell household!

Cock-a-doodle-ho-ho-ho...happy holidays everybody!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bye, bye for now..."South of Zero"

"South of Zero",  the award winning, internationally acclaimed blog from Mary and Steve Beckman, goes on hiatus as of the end of this week and we Yazells mark this change with mixed emotions.  We are happy because of the reason for this hiatus.   Mary and Steve are entering the final phase of achieving a long sought goal of relocating to Ecuador from California.  In the very near future, they will be joining our Cuenca community of Expadorians (a phrase, by the way, that Steve coined).  We  understand and share the celebration and joy of making this kind of goal a reality.

But, for us,  there is a touch of nostalgic sadness, as well.   Our personal journey began after someone first suggested Ecuador as a retirement location.  We began to explore, research and read as much as we could about this land.  The more we learned, the more we wanted to know.   It wasn't long before we discovered "South of Zero"  Not only was it a well done daily synopsis of the best Ecuadorian blogs, but Mary and Steve also provided reference sites that aided and abetted our search for information.  Soon "South of Zero" was as much a part of our morning routine as our cups of coffee.

Through "South of Zero, we got to read and share the experiences of many who had blazed the trail to Ecuador before us:   Bob N Rox, Chuck and Nancy Watson, the Kimblers,  Bill and Dean Keyes, Rich and Nancy Hedges, Jim Mola, Connie Pombo, Edd Staton, Clark and Brenda, Mick and Kathy, Mike and Patti, Nan, Lilya, Lourdes, Michael, Jason, Donna and many, many more too numerous to name.     Factual information helped us in our quest but there was always something extra special about sharing the personal experiences of those who preceded us, or like us, were in the process of moving.  Since our transition, we've become friends with many of those wonderful people we had first met through "South of Zero".  We are indebted to "South of Zero" for being the catalyst in many wonderful opportunities to develop great relationships.

We are indebted, as well, because of their contribution to our own blogging efforts.  Most of you that have become regular followers of "Juntos en el Camino de la Vida" first did so by way of "South of Zero".  In fact, our readership analytics tell us that somewhat over 60% of our 30+ country readership comes to us from "South of Zero".   Some of these readers have contacted us, some have made the transition to Ecuador and some have become personal acquaintances, as well.

Roger and Suzanne in Cuenca near the Rio Tomebamba
So it is that we (and many of you) will miss our daily dose of "South of Zero'.  However, it is good to know arrangements have been made to keep us all connected to the South of Zero blogroll through "Xpadorian Blogs"  (  "South of Zero" will return in the future but will now reflect Mary's insight to her own transition.  We are absolutely looking forward to reading and sharing that experience.

We are looking forward, as well, to welcoming the Beckmans to Cuenca.  And so we say to Mary and Steve:  Thank you for your past efforts in the blogosphere.....May you enjoy good fortune and safe travels during your transition.  See you soon and godspeed!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Blind Wine Tasting Party!

Six wines were tasted and a seventh was enjoyed by The Wine Guy's guests 
during the blind tasting of affordable wines available in Cuenca Ecuador.

The Wine Guy finally got to properly inaugurate his new wine bar.  The fetching Mrs. Wine Guy and I hosted a wine tasting party for some friends who had expressed an interest in wine.  Each couple and/or single guest was asked to select a bottle to bring that fit the theme for the tasting.  Our theme was "Affordable and Available Wine".  The wine could be either red or white but no dessert or sparkling wines were permitted.  The theme criteria asked that the wine be available at retail here in Cuenca, Ecuador and be priced under $15.  That's actually no mean feat because of the very high import tariffs on alcohol here in is one the things that is generally much more affordable in the USA than it is here!

We ended up with six bottles of wine (two white, four red) for the tasting and each had its label covered to conceal its identity.  The wines were marked with letters "A" through "F".   Scoring sheets were handed out to the tasters to use in scoring the wines.  Each wine got 50 basis points (just for being a wine!)  The host would later enter label and seal points (worth a maximum of 5 points each) and the guests were to give from 0 to 10 points each in four categories:  visual examination of the wine,  aroma of the wine, initial wine taste and finishing taste.   That made for a maximum possible 100 points for each wine. Each scoring sheet had suggestions on the positives and negatives to look for in each category.  A general discussion of scoring occurred before the tasting began, but each guest was left to his own intuition as to how to assign or deduct points.  Here were the six wines subject to scoring in the tasting in order of their presentation to the guests (although they were not identifiable at the time of tasting):

A.  Trapiche Sauvignon Blanc
B.  Santa Julia Fuzion Blanco (Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay blend)
C.  Cremashi Furlotti Barrel Select Carmenere  (this wine slightly exceeded the retail price requirement)
D.  Trapiche Astica Malbec
E.  Carta Vieja Reserva Limited Cabernet Sauvignon
F.  Vina Maria Cabernet Sauvignon

Each tasting consisted of a single one ounce pour and a spit container was provided.  After the scoring was complete, the tasters handed their score sheets to the host for tabulation.  Each scorer was provided later with a print out of their scores and a listing of the wines ranked in order of the group's overall average scores. This was all handled by having excel spreadsheets prepared onto which the host could enter the scores.  Tabulation and ranking then proceed automatically.   While the host was entering the scores, guests enjoyed snacks and discussed their scoring observations.  They also had the opportunity to revisit the uncovered wines if they chose to do so.  They were additionally treated to a seventh wine that fitted the criteria for the tasting theme.  This wine was provided by the host and came from Uruguay.  (The Wine Guy reviewed this wine, Pisano C/S Platino Tannat/Merlot, in an earlier September 12, 2012 posting on Roger's Grapevine).

When the scores were averaged, there was a tie for first and second place in the rankings between a white and a red.  In fact, only 5 points separated the top ranked from the lowest ranked wine.  (Rankings ranged from 72 to 77 points in overall average scores).  Here are the rankings based on average scores:

1. (tie)Santa Julia Fuzion Blanco                                                 77 pts
1. (tie)Carta Vieja Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon                         77 pts
3. Cremashi Furlotti Carmenere                                                  76 pts
4. Vina Maria Cabernet Sauvignon                                             74 pts
5. Trapiche Sauvignon Blanc                                                      73 pts
6. Trapiche Astica Malbec                                                          72 pts

I later did an alternative ranking based on assigning 5 points to each taster's number one rated wine, 4 points to the second ranked wine and so on down to 0 points for the bottom ranked wine and then tabulating the total points from all tasters.  This method yielded a slightly different overall ranking:

1. Cremashi Furlotti Carmenere
2. Santa Julia Fuzion Blanco
3. Carta Vieja Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon
4. Trapiche Sauvignon Blanc
5. Vina Maria Cabernet Sauvignon
6. Trapiche Astica Malbec

An interesting note from this method was the Carta Vieja Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, which received number one rankings from four different tasters. That was the most 1st place ranking of any of the wines.  It also received a last place ranking from four different tasters and that was the most last place finishes of any of the wines. Those in attendance either really liked or didn't like this wine!

The guests may not have noticed
but the tasted was presided over by
Rusty, the host's official Wine Bar Bear!

It was an interesting experience to examine the tasting sheets of couples in attendance.  One couple was in almost total agreement all the way through, only differing on the order of the last two place wines.  It was also noteworthy that the wine they brought finished in the bottom two for both of them.  Another couple who professed a strong prejudice for red wines both scored a white in their top two rankings.  Yet another couple who stated a preference for whites both scored a red (although a different one for each of them) as their number one wine choice.   Results like this are not really all that uncommon in blind wine tastings and it can be a great way to learn and discover that your wine tastes can sometimes take you to new and unexpected places.

All in all it was an enjoyable evening and perhaps some of these wines will make it to your table for a trial.   Our Cuencano friends may especially appreciate having reference to some affordable wines to try.   Enjoy!

(Note:  because the subject content covers both wine and our adventures in Ecuador,  this blog is being entered on two different blog sites:  
1. Roger's Grapevine, 
2. Juntos en el Camino de la Vida,

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Meet an up and coming young Ecuadorian Artist!

The artist in a self portrait.
His name is Tomas Galindo Pazan.   He has a post graduate degree in architecture and that appears to be just one of his passions.  Just twenty-seven years old, he is an accomplished photographer and artist as well.  Both talents complement his chosen profession.  On top of everything else he is a poised, personable and genuinely likeable young man.

A typical Tomas Galindo Pazan
Suzanne and I first encountered Tomas at one of the many art shows we attended after returning to Ecuador permanently.  We saw him at a number of shows thereafter.  He was well on his way to becoming renown for his vibrant, colorful watercolors.  The subject of most of his pieces was Galapagos wildlife and the pieces were interpretations of photography he took while visiting the Galapagos.  His photography alone is worthy of exhibition but his watercolors added a whole dimension to what his artist mind's eye saw on those islands.  You only had to mildly inquire to get him to explain his vision and he always did so with passion and devotion to his subject piece.

We nearly purchased a simply amazing watercolor of the infamous Galapagos blue-footed boobie (Suzanne has a fascination with these critters).  We have since discovered that no less than a half dozen of our friends were considering the same piece (yes, it has been sold!).  Tomas's work was rapidly becoming popular among the Cuenca ex-patriate community.

This oil painting was the
 Yazell's first purchase.

Our first purchase, however, was not a watercolor.  We had previously seen a single oil painting he had done.  It was a gorgeous piece but wasn't the right size and, at the time, our container (with some of our artwork from the states) had not arrived and we weren't sure yet what would go where in our new home.  (One of our friends, however, did purchase this oil!).  We both shared with Tomas that he had a talent for oil and a unique style and we hope he would venture more in that medium.

Fast forward a few weeks and there came the show (by this time, our container had arrived) when we made our first purchase.  It was an oil and not a watercolor.   It was a boobie  but not the blue-footed one (however, one of its notable cousins!) It now hangs proudly in Casa Yazell.

When Tomas delivered our first purchase, the conversation drifted to our love of wine.  By the time he left, Tomas was carrying two wine bottles but not for consumption.  One was an empty bottle. It was a Brunello Di Montalcino we had purchased during a trip to Tuscany and had kept cellared until opening it to celebrate Roger's retirement.  The other is a Brunello di Montalcino we brought to Ecuador with us that we plan to open on our 42nd anniversary later this year.  We had commissioned Tomas to paint another oil, this time with wine instead of wildlife as the subject matter. We ended up giving Tomas carte blanche for the creative style of the work. The only stipulations for the piece were that it had to contain those two bottles and at least one glass with wine .  We really didn't know what to expect.

Tomas making the delivery.

It was several weeks before we heard back from our young friend, but the call did come.  "I'm done,  said the voice on the other end of the phone, "but you have to wait a day or so for the paint to dry before I can bring the painting and give you your wine back!"  When he arrived, we were, indeed, pleased with the results

We now are the proud owners of two pieces by a very up and coming young Ecuadorian, Tomas Galindo Pazan.  Mark his name well.  He will either become very well known as a successful Ecuadorian architect or become renown as on of Ecuador's outstanding artists.   We would not be at all surprised if he accomplishes both!

This oil painting is currently being framed
and will hang in the sala of Casa Yazell
directly across from Roger's wine bar.

If you would like to see more of the work of this talented young man, go to   

We think that after reviewing what you see, you'll agree that Tomas Galindo Pazan has talent!  We hope you enjoy his work as much as we do.  We are so very glad we had the opportunity to meet this young man during our travels, "juntos en camino de la vida".

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

San Miguel de Allende and Cuenca: making a choice between the two!

We are overdue for responding to a regular longtime reader who inquired back in July as to why we finally chose Cuenca, Ecuador for retirement over San Miguel Allende, Mexico.    Those of you who have been readers from the first, or who have discovered our entry on San Miguel in the archives, know that we originally planned on retiring to this community in the central highlands of Mexico.

Residential suburbs of Cuenca, Ecuador
Residential suburbs of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
 That reader wrote and inquired as to what tipped the scale in Ecuador's favor?  We thought it was a good and a fair question, so we promised to explore the reasons more fully in a blog.  (At this point, if you haven't read:  "A Look At San Miguel de Allende " originally posted on April 21, 2011, it may be of benefit to do so before going further on this blog.)

Street scene in historico centro Cuenca

Street scene in historico centro
San Miguel de Allende

Both cities have some desirable attributes in common.  Both have historic central districts that are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  Both have beautiful centrally located plazas that are  anchors for many community activities and resources.  Both have an abundance of colorful colonial architecture.  Both are blessed with an abundance of beautiful churches and cathedrals.  Both have active city administrations that support art and cultural activities for the benefit of their citizenry.  Both have established ex-patriate residents that have integrated well through many parts of the city. Both represent well their heritage and culture. Both have generally moderate climates year around. These were among the attributes that were important to us as we sought an appropriate locale for ex-patriate retirement living and both cities appeared to have much to offer us as future ex-patriates.

Parroquia San Miguel in San Miguel de Allende

Iglesia San Francisco in Cuenca
So what were the differences?  And what among these differences finally led us to choose Cuenca after having invested several exploration trips to Mexico?  Here were some of the key factors that tipped the scale in Cuenca's favor:

Residency status:   The process of applying for and obtaining residency status in Mexico appears to be simpler and less intensive than it is here in Ecuador (Our best advice on both: you really need to DO your complete homework BEFORE you come!).   However, once residency status is granted, there is some advantage to a residency in Ecuador.  That lies in the simple fact that permanent foreign residents of Ecuador are granted the same protections as Ecuadorian citizens under the Ecuadorian constitution.  In Ecuador, as permanent residents, we can, (with some conditions and limitations) work at most occupations, apply for special benefits and enjoy the same usage of public facilities as citizens.  That is not so in Mexico, which is much more legally restrictive as to the rights, privileges and opportunities granted to permanent foreign residents. 

Health care:    Health care in Mexico is highly variable by locale and while excellent in some locales (such as metropolitan Guadalajara), it is often limited and more costly in semi-rural areas such as San Miguel.  In Cuenca, there are numerous facilities, a plethora of accessible well-trained physicians and it is generally more affordable.

Superstructure and public transportation:   Cuenca is significantly larger than San Miguel (500,000+ metro versus less than 100,000) so it has a larger tax base and has some developed amenities and superstructure not found in San Miguel.  The area outlying the historico centro has modern amenities in dining, culture, shopping, health care facilities, etc.  Cuenca's tax base supports a more thoroughly developed and better maintained street system, public mass transit.  There are plans for developing light rail.  It is not readily apparent but the presence of several universities in Cuenca add significantly to the the activities and resources available to residents of the community.

Currency:  Ecuador's official currency is the U.S. dollar. While that creates some economic challenges for the country as a whole, it is a superb convenience to us ex-patriates not to have worry about currency exchange and conversion. It really does simplify every day living and budgeting as well transferring funds.

Acceptance and welcome:   While San Miguel de Allende has a long history of having an ex-patriate presence (there has been significant migration to San Miguel since the late 40's) and while there is some superb integration and acceptance of ex-pats into its social structure and community organizations, Mexico, as a nation, still has an undercurrent of tension with its neighbors to the north.  While there is less of that in the state of Guanajuato than anyplace else in Mexico, we found the genuine welcome and acceptance of Cuencanos to our arrival and efforts toward residency far in excess of anything we had ever experienced in Mexico.  Moreover, the welcome and acceptance by fellow ex-patriates who had preceded us contained more good affinity here in Ecuador than what was evident anywhere in Mexico.

Greater affordability:   Some select everyday living expenses were cheaper for us in Mexico and despite San Miguel's much smaller size as a city, there was more availability of products and brands "from back home" than we find here in Cuenca.  However, real estate and housing were a much different story.  Housing costs in outlying neighborhoods in San Miguel were only fractionally lower than back in Arizona. In the historico centro, those costs far exceeded the costs of a typical suburban Phoenix home.   Overall, Cuenca offered a "bigger bang for our buck" despite being one of the more costly areas in Ecuador and despite Ecuador's high tariffs on imports.  It will, however, require some adjustment in lifestyle choices and purchase decisions.

Potential for Violence:   The central highlands of Mexico have not been beset with the much publicized drug cartel violence you hear about in the states.  However, over the past four years, that violence, while not having extended itself yet to the San Miguel-Guanajuato area has appeared in other places where it was previously not in evidence (such as the Chapala area).  The ongoing struggle between the government and the cartels and among the the cartels themselves are destabilizing Mexican society as a whole.  Ecuador, on the other hand has recently emerged from an extended period of economic and political instability and seems to be entering a period in which social stability and growth seem to on the upswing and headed for a steadily progressing trend.   Cuenca, in particular, appears to be trending toward a growing, emerging middle class and has become a magnet not just for ex-patriates but also for returning, upwardly mobile Ecuadorians in search of a better life and economic opportunity.  Both areas share common challenges on petty social crime, as do most developing countries with a broad economic disparity. That, unfortunately, is an issue an ex-patriate must be prepared to face and willing to address wherever he chooses to reside.

A rainbow in the Cajas mountains as seen from our house.
Environmental Diversity:  Both areas are beautiful in their own ways.  Ecuador, however, packs more geological and biological diversity into every square mile than any other country on Earth.  There simply aren't enough words to adequately describe the myriad opportunities, all within a few hours commute, to enjoy the spectacular beauty of this country.  Ecuador is roughly the size of the state of Nevada but presents more geological terrains and venues and offers more species of flora and fauna than all of North America put together.  It offers us more opportunities to enjoy new adventures right in our own backyard than almost anyplace else we could have chosen to retire to.

Cuenca, Ecuador's Historico Centro

Central location:  We resided in Phoenix and our grown son resides in Atlanta.  It was about a four hour plane ride apart.   Atlanta to Ecuador falls within the four and a half to five hour range, almost virtually the same.   In addition, we are less than six hours access, not only to most of the US, Central America and Carribean, but to nearly all of the places we hope to visit in South America, as well.  One of our goals was affordable living that would allow us to continue to enjoy vacations of travel and exploration in our retirement.  Ecuador's easy access to so many destinations (including direct flights to Spain) and the discount fares available to a "tercera edad" resident of Ecuador make that goal readily attainable.

Roger & Suzanne in Cuenca
Hopefully, our answer to one reader's inquiry provided the answers they were seeking and provided some helpful insight to others, as well.  We do still have a fond spot in our hearts for central Mexico as a wonderful place to visit and/or reside.  It may well be the right choice for many and would not have been an undesirable choice for us.  It will, most certainly, be a city we will look forward to making repeat visits to.  Fortunately, it will be easy to so from our chosen home here in Cuenca.  We look forward to a lot of adventures originating from our new home and we feel both fortunate and blessed as we continue ever onward, "juntos en el camino de la vida"!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Great Little Getaway...just what we needed!

 "It's pretty, but there's not a lot to do in Vilcabamaba", one of our Xpadorian friends told us.  "But you will see a lot of interesting people."  Actually, the prospect of hanging out in a quiet rural area with drop dead gorgeous scenery, eating good food, sipping a little wine, plus meeting interesting people from all over the world sounded like just the therapy we've been needing.  The past six months has been filled with returning to Ecuador, getting our temporary visa, getting our residency visa, getting our cedula, opening a bank account, buying a house, doing some remodeling, getting our container here, unpacking said container,  buying a security system for the house, etc. etc. etc. and so forth!   Whew!  who knew retiring could be such hard work!!!!!

The gate to the Loja centro, built mostly as a tourist attraction.
 Our van from Cuenca had its depot near here.
 So the day before Suzanne's birthday, we boarded the Elite Tours transport van to Loja,  capital of the province of the same name that lies just south of Azuay.  Three and a half hours later we were there and commandeered a driver for the one hour drive south to beautiful, gorgeous Vilcabamba, known as "the valley of longevity".  On the outskirts, nestled on a high ridge sat the resort of Izychaluma ( Izychaluma in the local indigenous dialect means "two hills").  The scenery was gorgeous, our nice private cabin was nestled along a rock walkway with a back deck complete with comfortable hammock and a view!  It had all the makings of a great 4-day retreat! It didn't disappoint us as the following photos will show:

It takes about an hour to get from Loja to Vilcabamba.  There were some washouts on
this mountainous trek during the rainy season so there is a lot of roadwork.  There is
 also a road being rebuilt south to Peru.  We were glad we hired a driver who knew the way.

Descending into the valley where we retreated for 4 days
from the cold and the "hectic" pace of life we had been leading in Cuenca.

Our cabin at Izychaluma Resort

Suzanne at the cabin
View from the cabin's back deck.

It didn't take long to make good use of the hammock! With Suzanne is
"Shotzie", one of our many stuffed bears.  One always travels with us on trips!

Looking downhill into Vilcabamaba centro from the resort.
Hosteria Izychaluma is owned and operated by two German brothers and offers a variety of different accommodations including dormitory rooms that are popular with backpackers.  We met guests from seven different countries during our stay.  One staff member spoke at least four different languages (we overheard her speaking to guests in Spanish, English, French, and German).  The town of Vilcabamba itself is very clean despite some major road renovation going on. It is quiet, laid back and filled with gracious people all seemingly bent on having a wonderful day.  We certainly did!

A town square park is the focal point of Vilcabamba

Downtown is neat, clean, with some nice sidewalk cafes ideal for sitting,
seeing the world go by and being seen.

A stylish church on the square.

It only took about 20-25 minutes to walk to the centro from the resort. It was roughly about 2 kilometers (a downhill mile and a quarter for you Arizona folks).  We treated ourselves to cab ride back (living in the Andes, you learn to do your walking downhill and save your riding for uphill portions of your day!)
Interestingly, all the local taxis in Vilcabamba were 4-wheel drive vehicles!

There are also accommodations in town. Just a block off the square is
Jardins Escondido (Hidden Gardens), a hosteria and also a pretty decent
spot to have a Mexican luncheon.
Leave it to the Ecuadorian Wine Guy to discover a wine emporium just
after arriving in the centro.  Some mixed reviews on our discoveries there.
Roger will be posting those reviews this coming weekend on "Roger's Grapevine"
The resort had nice affordable wines and a nice menu selection so we ate all but one meal on site (breakfast was included in the price of our accommodation).  We hiked, played cards and dominos.  Suzanne got acquainted with several of the resident pets (one new kitten in particular!) and we polished off our last afternoon with relaxing massages.  Our getaway was just what the doctor ordered!

Suzanne and one of her new friends!

Roger enjoyed the grounds as well as the wine!

View from the dining room on our last morning!

We saw this mural during a few hours spent in Loja before our return to Cuenca.

We took time for a stint of sightseeing, a little pottery shopping and an"almuerzo" in Loja before climbing into the van for our return trek to Cuenca.  We arrived back in town, glad to be back at "Casa Yazell" but filled with warm (both literally and figuratively) memories of our Vilcabama getaway.   

It was good, as always, to be "juntos en el camino de la vida".